“Have you any suspicions?” asked the cardinal again, in his gentle voice.
“None, Eminence. The only thing approaching to a quarrel, of which I have heard, is the suit about the title of the Saracinesca. But of course that can have nothing to do with the matter. It was decided yesterday without opposition.”
“It could have nothing to do with the murder, you think?” inquired the statesman with an air of interest.
“No. How could it?” Gouache laughed at the idea. “The Saracinesca could not murder their enemies as they used to do five hundred years ago. Besides, your Eminence has got the murderer and must be able to guess better than I what were the incentives to the crime.”
“That does not follow, my friend. A man who confesses a misdeed is not bound to incriminate any one else, and a man whose conscience is sensitive enough to make him surrender himself naturally assumes the blame. He suffers remorse, and does not attempt any defence, excepting such as you yourself just now gave me, when you said that the prince had insulted you. Enough to give a semblance of truth to the story. By the bye, is that true?”
“It is and it is not,” answered Gouache, blushing a little. “The poor man, when I began to explain my position, thought—how shall I say? He thought I wanted to sell him a picture. It was not his fault.”
“Poor man!” sighed the cardinal. “He had not much tact. And so, Monsieur Gouache, you think that the great Saracinesca suit has had nothing to do with the murder?”
“It seems to me impossible. It looks rather as though he had been murdered by a servant, out of spite. It is hard to believe that any one not belonging to the house could have done it.”
“I think the public will agree with you. I will occupy myself with the matter. Perhaps I have got the man safe in that room, but who knows? If you had come first, you might have gone to the Carceri Nuove instead of him. After all, he may be in love too.”
The cardinal smiled, but Gouache started at the suggestion, as though it hurt him.
“I doubt that,” he said quickly.
“So do I. It would be a strange coincidence, if two innocent men had accused themselves of the same crime, out of love, within twenty-four hours of its being committed. But now that you are calm—yes, you were beside yourself with excitement—I must tell you that you have done a very rash thing indeed. If I had not chanced to be a friend of yours, what would have become of you? I cannot help liking your courage and devotion—you have shown it in sterner matters, and in the face of the enemy—but you might have destroyed yourself. That would have been a great sin.”